Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I am not Veal

My contempt for the open office plan is as endless as this new Endless Table recently installed at the Barbarian Group in NYC.

As you can see from the NY Times article, it was designed by Clive Wilkinson, the same architect who designed the offices of TBWA Chiat/Day, a place I used to call home for so many years.

I loved working at the Big Yellow House in Playa Vista, just 2.7 miles from my home. Mainly because we had the semblance of a real office, an in-house restaurant, a basketball court and state of the art editing and production facilities, all in the same building.

What we didn't have was an 1,100 foot long concrete, rebar-reinforced monstrosity ribboning through the office posing as some advancement in advertising office ergonomics.

I don't fault Clive.

In fact, thanks to some mutual friends in the industrial design arena, he and I are only separated by two degrees. So, if this should ever get back to him, he should know I am a big admirer of his work.

Clive was only doing what we all try to do -- deliver on the brief.

I have a bigger problem with the agency brass who have deluded themselves into thinking that creativity can thrive in a tiny (4 ft.) workspace more suited to an abattoir-bound baby cow.

You might hear a lot of claptrap about "greater collaboration" and the "spontaneous free-flowing spark of imagination", but I'm here to tell you it's all Bullshit. Mouthed by millennial sycophants who have been spoon-fed a steady diet of architectural malarkey and trained to speak in jargon-filled vagaries.

This isn't just me blowing off some old man smoke.

If you've got a few minutes and your co-worker next to you isn't blasting some horrendous European electronica crap through his or her Dr. Dre Beatphones, or whatever the hell they call them, take a look at this article recently published in the New Yorker. It details the decline of productivity and morale in today's modern new gulags.

Or, here's an even better idea.

If you're curious and would like to know why the big wigs at the Barbarian Group would drop $300,000 on an Endless Table instead of, oh I don't know, using that money to create a more private, more humane, more productive work environment, why don't you ask them?

They should be stepping out of their closed-door offices any minute now.


george tannenbaum said...

I think they should also have one really long keyboard and a 75-foot pencil. Thereby furthering the vealiness of the joint.

rebrivved said...

No amount of shiny surfaces will make our shitty business model look more appealing.

Anonymous said...

So is this a metaphor for the double helix? Or a stunt that brings PR value to a boring space and a budget that was tiny compared to the people it had to accommodate. I know anyone can say "both" but in this case convenient design is not design. Budget efficiency is not design efficiency. I don't see an elegant and simple design, I see a design that is simple in its inelegance and unvarnished PR angle. The people who want to work in that environment are the ones who think it's cool and will do so, if that was the goal, don't profess anything else about it.

Anonymous said...
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Elizabeth said...

Management sits at the same desk. Do your homework. Taking it easy on the youth slurs could help add to your credibility as well. 300K is cheap for an entire outfit of office furniture btw - the typical Veal Box corporate cube set up is shockingly expensive.

Rich Siegel said...

@Elizabeth. While I applaud the management at the Barbarian Group for walking the walk, I can tell you from experience that type of egalitarianism is rare.

I can also tell you from experience that within days all the workers will be wearing headphones to escape the noise or looking for a cubby where they can just sit and think.

As for cutting down on the "youth slurs", sorry that's what Round Seventeen readers come here for.

Soon I'll need these young folks to change my diapers. But until that day comes, they're fair game. Credibility be damned.

Bob said...

The 5,0000 Fingers of Dr. T.

Babe, Pig in the City said...

//300K is cheap for an entire outfit of office furniture btw - the typical Veal Box corporate cube set up is shockingly expensive.//

Yes, Elizabeth. That's exactly why they did it. It certainly isn't for "collaboration" or "productivity," because those are going to go down very, very soon. Just read the ever-growing list of articles, from The New York Times to Fast Company, that not only bemoan the effects of this sort of open office configuration, but also publish studies showing how inefficient and unproductive they really are.

Bob said...

Oops, the pic link for The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T didn't show up.


Anonymous said...

Cool desk, bro.

Bukes said...

It is what it is. Now let's make some cool shit!

Shifty said...

Didn't Chiat start the whole "open office" thing?

Unknown said...

I think it was the "virtual office" - why didn't that take off?